FORT MYERS, Fla. — Dr. Seuss is an icon, a figure larger than life in the realm of children's books. While his creative stories may look harmless on the outside, experts are now asking us to look deeper and not only judge his books by their cover.
The best- selling author is facing criticism over racist images in six children's books: 'And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street', 'If I Ran the Zoo', 'McElligot’s Pool', 'On Beyond Zebra!', 'The Cat’s Quizzer', and 'Scrambled Eggs Super!'.
"When we’re children, we're operating from a child's brain and sometimes things may seem alright, but looking at this stuff as an adult, it's hurtful," says Amber Levister, Professor of Sociology with a Concentration in African American Studies atDevry University
Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the organization in charge of the author’s legacy, has decided to pull the books from circulation.
"These are very stereotypically, caractured drawings of things. What we don’t realize, especially when children are so susceptible, and open to a lot of information, they’re internalizing so much! Even if they are not consciously aware of it," says Levister.
Levister says the problem goes beyond Dr. Seuss, as racist images like 'Sambo' and 'Mammy' have been embedded in American entertainment for generations.
"Even cartoons that we were watching when we were younger, that our parents' generation was watching, Tom and Jerry, often has the “Mammy” stereotype," says Levister. "Somebody who is often a darker-skinned woman with very big lips, coarse hair, a thick nose, and features that within our culture are absolutely beautiful, but are demonized and ostracized by the world."
Dr. Seuss’s rhymes have been the melody that lull generations of children to sleep, but some believe it's time to put his work to bed.
"I do think that we shouldn’t really give credit to Dr. Seuss or allow for him be in the literary circle that we have put children into just given the history of a lot of his books and knowing that he was actively and intentionally producing such images," says Levister.
Levister hopes these conversations about racist images will lead to change and a society that is more centered around diversity and inclusion for all.